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Obama Won’t Meet Netanyahu; PM Says US Loses ‘Moral Right’ to Stop Attack
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday said the United States had forfeited its moral right to stop Israel taking action against Iran’s nuclear program because it had refused to be firm with Tehran itself.
At the same time, according to Israeli officials, the White House rejected a request by Netanyahu to meet President Barack Obama in the United States this month. An Israeli official said aides were told Obama’s schedule will not permit a meeting when Netanyahu visits the United Nations this month.
Netanyahu has met with Obama on all the Israeli leader’s U.S. trips since 2009.
Earlier, in comments which appeared to bring the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran closer, Netanyahu took the Obama administration to task after Washington rebuffed his own call to set a red line for Tehran’s nuclear drive.
“The world tells Israel, ‘Wait, there’s still time’. And I say, ‘Wait for what? Wait until when?'” said Netanyahu.
“Those in the international community who refuse to put red lines before Iran don’t have a moral right to place a red light before Israel,” he added, addressing a news conference with Bulgaria’s prime minister.
Netanyahu has been pushing Obama to adopt a tougher line against Iran, arguing that setting a clear boundary for Iran’s uranium-enrichment activities and imposing stronger economic sanctions could deter Tehran from developing nuclear weapons and mitigate the need for military action.
But on Monday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States would not set a deadline in further talks with Iran, saying there was still time for diplomacy to work.
Netanyahu’s comments came as diplomats said six world powers, including the United States, were poised to voice “serious concern” about Iran’s uranium enrichment program and to urge Tehran to open up access to suspected nuclear sites.
Netanyahu has had a strained relationship with Obama over Iran and other issues, such as Jewish settlement building in the occupied West Bank.
But he has never put differences with Obama — who has pledged he will “always have Israel’s back” — in the context of morality.
Iran, which denies it is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, has threatened to retaliate against Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf if it attacked, and Obama’s re-election bid could be thrown off course by a new war.
Republican challenger Mitt Romney has accused Obama of throwing Israel “under the bus.”
Without mentioning Clinton by name, but pointedly parroting her use of the word “deadline,” Netanyahu said not setting a clear boundary for Iran would only encourage Iran to continue its quest for nuclear arms.
“If Iran knows that there is no deadline, what will it do? Exactly what it’s doing. It’s continuing, without any interference, towards obtaining a nuclear weapons capability and from there, nuclear bombs,” he said.
Widely thought to be the Middle East’s only nuclear power, Israel says a nuclear-armed Iran would be a threat to its existence.
© 2012 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
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